28 'A United North' Part II

Hello everyone, sorry for the delay in the release of this chapter. Unfortunately a letter on my keyboard, which I won't name, decided not to work today. Small technical problems already solved! Thank you all for your support and Happy Reading!!!

POV: GreatJon Umber;

Last Hearth.

Two hours after a brave boy lost consciousness....

GreatJon Umber, Lord of Last Hearth, was drinking his fifth pint of fine ale of the evening. Next to him sat a seven year old boy dressed in fine clothes, a red leather doublet, white silk and wool trousers, small black leather boots, white hair, green eyes with silver streaks on the eyes...Duncan Tallhart, nicknamed Bloody Snow.

"Lord Umber, I thank you again for the warm hospitality you have extended to me. The party is magnificent, my Lord," said the boy bowing his head.

"Nonsense boy! The honour is ours. Not every young man from the North has the bones and spine to make it this far! AHAHAH!" Said GreatJon as he drank another tankard. Almost two hundred guests at the banquet were laughing and drinking. The tone of the evening was certainly not low. Every person in the room almost had to shout to be heard.

GreatJon, looked at the young Tallhart heir's fellow escorts for a while.

"Your men look fierce to the point boy! AHAHAH! What is their name?" GreatJon.

"Ah, forgive my rudeness, Lord Umber. These are not my men, my lord. They are my masters of arms. I present to you, Baragh No Dau of Norvos. Here we have, Josua of Jhala, Narbo and last but not least Will." He introduced Duncan, each man or woman called, bowed their heads politely to offer their thanks.

"ARGH! YOU LET FOREIGNERS TRAIN YOU BRAT! NORTHERN MEN, LEARN TO FIGHT FROM NORTHERN WARRIORS!" Shouted Mors Umber, who was at GreatJon's side.

"SHUT UP OLD MAN!!! YOU WILL NOT INSULT MY GUESTS AT MY TABLE!" GreatJon

"MMPHF" Mors.

"Lord Mors Umber, you are free to insult me all you want, my Lord, but I will never allow the honour of my House, my Family or... OF MY MASTERS!" Said the boy, standing up in his chair to reach Mors' gaze.

The eyes of 'Bloody Snow' and the remaining eye of 'Crow's Food' looked at each other in silence for a few seconds.

"NO ONE IN THE NORTH IS BETTER THAN THESE GREAT WARRIORS!..." Bloody Snow.

"Words are wind boy, only actions determine the man! PROVE WHAT YOU CLAIM IF YOU DON'T WANT TO BE CALLED A LIAR!" Crowfood.

GreatJon knew that his Uncle was only testing the boy's temper. He, of all people, even if a brute was under his table, would never sully the laws of hospitality.

Everyone in the room began to turn towards the big table. A hundred Umber men and a hundred Tallhart men stood listening to the developments.

Duncan turned, seeking approval from one of his four companions.

Baragh No Dau answered the call with a smile.

"Alright great Lord...let's see what these Umbers men are made of. I, BARAGH NO DAU, ACCEPT YOUR CHALLENGE! I WILL FACE WHOEVER YOU PROPOSE." Said the massive Norvos man with a very slight foreign accent.

"AHAHAHAHA!!! LET THE SHOW BEGIN THEN! MAKE WAY FOR THE CENTRE!!!" Shouted GreatJon. Immediately, about fifty men stood up and made room between the tables. Food and drink were thrown on the floor in the confusion, but no one cared.

"WHO AMONG THE BRAVE MEN OF THE UMBERS IS UP TO FACING THE PRIEST OF NORVOS?" GreatJon.

More than ten men stepped forward...but then a taller man made room by shoving a couple of men aside.

"AHAHAH WELL! THAT WILL BE OUR CHAMPION UWELL THEN!!! AHAHAH" GreatJon.

A man, with raven black beard and hair, over 6 feet tall (about 2 meters) powerful arms and legs, scars all over his face and a toothless smile, advanced towards the centre of the arena set up.

"UWELL! UWELL! UWELL! UWELL!" Cheered the Umber men in unison.

Immediately afterwards, Duncan Tallhart climbed onto the big table, snapped two fingers signalling to a couple of his men who looked like scribes or accountants and shouted:

"HOUSE TALLHART WILL ACCEPT ANY BET FROM ANYONE IN THIS ROOM!"....

"UAAARRRGHHHRR!!!", "5 STAGS ON UWELL!", "2 MOONS ON BARAGH!" "UWELL! 3 STAGS!", "1 MOON ON UWELL!", "1 GOLDEN DRAGON!", "4 STAGS ON THE PRIEST!", "20 STAGS THAT THE PRIEST WON'T TAKE A MINUTE"....the two scribes were overwhelmed by more than 50 men at once, trying with all their might to get each bet scored on time...it was like the Wall Street scene in 'An Armchair For Two.'

After a few minutes, Duncan continued:

"LORD MORS, HOW ABOUT A LITTLE FRIENDLY WAGER BETWEEN US?" The challenge was issued for all to hear.

Mors Umber was, just for a moment, taken aback by the words...

He was well aware that only the Old Gods knew how rich House Tallhart was at the moment. But the man, nearly sixty years old, stood up in response.

"HOUSE UMBER CERTAINLY WON'T BACK DOWN!" He shouted confidently.

"UWAAAARGHHH!!!" All the men, both Umbers and Tallharts, shouted in unison. For them, this was the best night possible...food, beer, fights and betting...if they ended the night with a woman in their bed, some of them might even die with a smile on their faces the next day.

"I WILL WAGER A NUMBER OF GOLDEN DRAGONS, EQUAL TO THE NUMBER OF EACH MAN OR WOMAN UMBER, PRESENTLY PRESENT AT LAST HEARTH." Duncan.

Mors thought for a moment about the number of the current garrison and servants...around 1300 men and women at the moment...

"SO BE IT BOY!" GreatJon nearly choked on his ale upon hearing his Uncle's reply. House Umber, had never been very wealthy...1300 Gold Dragons, was a sum that could make a difference in the Winter to come...but the honor of the House had been put on the line.

"Old man, what are you doing?" GreatJon said quietly to Mors.

"I'm getting played like a bagpipe by that little devil, boy...enjoy the show to come!" Mors was sensing the boy's intentions...he had a good eye for warriors and that Baragh, he seemed to have a tough hide.

After ten minutes of preparations, the two men were shirtless in the middle of the room...

GreatJon stepped forward to be the judge....

"SO, THE RULES ARE: NO KILLING, STOP IN CASE OF SURRENDER OR KNOCKOUT AND...NO OTHER RULES!!! AHAHAHAHAHAHA!!! LET THE FIGHT BEGIN!!!" GreatJon stepped back.

"UAAAARGGH!!!", "COME ON ULWER!!!", "COME ON PRIEST!!!".

Ulwer, charged forward like a bull towards the figure 3 inches shorter than him... Baragh, simply, moved sideways in the opposite direction and with his left arm, unleashed: a mighty, sweeping, bone-shattering, breath-breaking, single 'LARIAT'...into the full throat of the fearless and confident Ulwer.

"SDUGH!"... "STUFTH".....Ulwer, a man of almost 100 kg of muscle, veteran of at least ten battles and a hundred fights, was on the ground unconscious...

"..." Silence swept through the room in a flash.

Baragh picked up his shirt a few steps away. When he had finished putting it on, he walked over to Greatjon who was still in shock...

"The big guy, he's supposed to wake up in the morning. Try not to let him do too much heavy lifting over the next....mmm...10 days." Then Baragh walked back towards the big table.

Mors Umber, stood up from the table with the mug in his hand. He raised his arm high and shouted with all the dignity and respect he could muster:

"TO THE GREAT WARRIOR BARAGH NO DUA!!! AND TO BLOODY SNOW!"

"TO BARAGH!!!!! TO BLOODY SNOW!!! UAAAAAAHHGHH!!!" All the men shrieked in response. Wailing, cursing, cheering and various other voices followed afterwards.

When GreatJon saw, that his host wanted to make another announcement, he pounded his fist on the table and shouted:

"SILENCE!!! SDUGH! SILENCE!!!"...the men found a hint of control and quiet. Some were still staring open-mouthed at poor Ulmer on the ground.

Bloody Snow announced:

"NOW THAT THE SHOW IS OVER! I WOULD LIKE TO MAKE AN ANNOUNCEMENT....A TOAST... TO LORD MORS UMBER! FOR GENEROUSLY DONATING A GOLDEN DRAGON, TO EVERY SINGLE MAN OR WOMAN IN SERVICE OF THE LAST HEARTH!!!! TO MORS!!!" It took a few seconds for some men to understand the meaning of those words, others (more awake and less drunk) understood on the fly.

"TO MORS!!!! YEEEAAARGHH!!!!!"," TO BLOODY SNOW!", "AT TALLHARTS!", "AT UMBER HOUSE!"... All the men celebrated in unison.

Duncan sat back down beside Lord Mors.

"You groomed me good boy!!! ARGHHAHAHA!!!" Mors, began to laugh with relish, now that he had tested the name 'Bloody Snow', he was able to return to his jovial and hospitable state.

"No, my Lord...you allowed me to give you an earful...you knew Baragh would win. Oh am I wrong?" Duncan.

"AHAHAH!!! Of course I knew! Do you know how many times I've seen death in my face boy? Every survival instinct I still have left is 'screaming' at me to get as far away from your men as possible! GURAHAHA!" Mors.

GreatJon joined the duo at the table.

"Damn it Young Lord! If that 'monster' participated in the tournament melee...the Umbers would go home empty handed!!! AHAHAHAH!" GreatJon laughed heartily at his joke, Duncan laughed for a while as well.

"My lords, House Umber, has shown me: hospitality, respect, show and honours...grant me the opportunity to repay this debt. Clap! Clap!" Some of the servants of the Tallharts, took in their Lord's signal.

"If I have your blessing GreatJon, I would like your House and mine to cooperate in the future." Duncan.

"House Umber, will always stand by those who help the North!!! We will never forget the help your father and your House has given us in the past. The Tallharts do not need my blessing!" Said GreatJorn in a more serious and respectful tone.

The doors of the gatehouse opened and 50 incredibly beautiful women entered carrying full goblets. There were beauties from the North, from Dorne, from Lys, from Braavos and even from the Summer Isle, and all of them were 'too scantily clad for this harsh Northern climate'.

"WOW!", "I FELL IN LOVE!", "FIIIIIUU!!! PHEW!!!", "SERVE ME A DRINK BABY!!!", "NO SERVE ME!!". The ravenous men ranted and screamed at the 50 beauties gathered from all seven kingdoms and Essos.

Duncan stood up one more time to announce:

"MY LORDS, MEN OF THE NORTH! LET ME INTRODUCE YOU TO THESE PROFESSIONAL ASSOCIATES OF MINE, WHO HAVE GRACIOUSLY ACCEPTED THE INVITATION OF HOUSE TALLHART! THIS EVENING THEY WILL GIVE US THE HONOUR OF SERVING YOU DRINKS! PLEASE GENTLEMEN, EVERYONE SHOW THE HOSPITALITY, FRIENDLINESS AND RESPECT THAT EVERY LADY DESERVES....AND....YOU WILL BE REWARDED!!!"

"YEEEEEEESSSSS!!!!!", "LONG LIFE TO BLOODY SNOW!!!", "TO THE TALLHARTS!" At that moment, at least a dozen men in the room, could have died as 'happy men with no regrets'.

"Damn it boy! Is this your gift? To make half the men in Last Hearth, betray and swear allegiance to House Tallhart?" GreatJon asked in an amused and ironic tone.

"No my lords...the gift is contained in those jugs...Miss Talisha please pour drinks for the two Lords here." Said Duncan to a girl in her early twenties less than ten feet from the table.

"Right away, my Lord. Would the Lords like Whisky or Vodka?" Talisha.

"Both please, thank you Talisha." Duncan.

Talisha, poured the two drinks into four cups. She then left the jugs on the table and took her leave with a bow.

"Please my lords, taste. I must warn you that the drink is... slightly strong. Made especially for true Northmen." Duncan.

"AHAHAH! Boy, you may have defeated my best man in the fight...but A UMBER WILL NEVER BE KILLED BY AN ALCOHOLIC DRINK!" GreatJon, drained the entire cup in one go.

.....

"SPRRRUUZZZ!!! COUGH! COUGH! COARGHHH!!! May the strangers curse you boy!!...COUGH! ANFH!....this stuff...IT'S WILDFIRE!!! AHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!" GreatJon poured himself another glass.

Mors, first sending 'the idiot nephew' as a vanguard, tasted with more moderate sips. He was stunned by the intensity and alcoholic strength of the drink...he felt hot flashes throughout his throat and mouth.

"House Tallhart, would like to create a future and prosperous business partnership with House Umber...an alcohol trade with these two new drinks...for starters. The first drink you are tasting is called 'Whisky', it will be produced on my lands and sold to you and you alone. The second....aimè.....needs a great deal of potatoes to be produced...which House Umber has in abundance fortunately for you. As for the whisky, I guarantee that you will make a profit of at least 300% on the purchase price...and that it will be very...very much in demand. We will sell you the Whisky for 3 deer a gallon...for the Vodka you will produce, our House will charge a 5% tax on the profits..." as Duncan finished speaking, many men in the room praised the taste and alcoholic intensity of the new drinks being served.

"...Young Lord Duncan Tallhart...Why? Why does House Tallhart want to give up so much wealth? This deal could make you as rich as House Redwine if not Tyrell....Why do you want to give up this deal to House Umber?" GreatJon asked, showing for the first time ever a moved, confused and incredulous look.

"You ask me why, Lord GreatJon Umber? Because the Tallharts already have enough business to line their pockets. Because we want the entire North to prosper. Because you are our brother First Men and comrades from the North. Because House Umber has suffered more winter than any other House in the Seven Kingdoms. Because you have never been 'rich', and people who have lived in poverty know how to give 'respect and value' to wealth. Because 'WINTER IS COMING!' and the North will need the help of the House that knows it best...now more than ever...'THE NORTH MUST BE UNITED!'..." Duncan replied with all the sincerity he could muster.

END POV.

POV: Roose Bolton;

Dreadfort.

An hour after a servant attempted to bleed his Lord....

Roose Bolton, was in his study along with seven of his men and the Tallhart emissary sitting across from him.

"Lord Bolton, thank you for receiving me unannounced, my Lord. House Tallhart sends his respects to all of Dreadfort." Said a slightly hoarse but polite voice.

"Dreadfort welcomes all emissaries of House Tallhart, Ser..." replied an icy but friendly voice.

The two men, had been scrutinising each other in silence for two minutes before Ramas spoke.

"What can House Bolton do for your House?" Roose.

"Leobald Tallhart and his wife Lady Berena, after three years of failure, are finally going to have an heir. House Tallhart plans to celebrate the happy event with a tournament. All the Houses of the North have been invited and we extend the same invitation to you, Lord Roose Bolton and your family." Ramas.

"House Bolton is delighted with such happy news Ser...We thank the Tallhart family for the invitation and gladly accept. We are honoured by your consideration." Roose Bolton, using a very light tone of mockery and irony in his last sentence.

"House Tallhart, will be honoured to receive you and host you under its table...we thank you Lord Bolton and your House for accepting our invitation, my Lord." Ramas used the exact same slight tone of irony and mockery in the last sentence. Roose, didn't seem to be bothered by it, but a twinkle in his eyes appeared and Ramas didn't miss it.

"May I ask you Ser Ramas, if it doesn't bother you, how long have you been in the service of House Tallhart?" Roose asked in a curious tone.

"Unfortunately, my Lord...I fear I have lost track of time." Ramas replied in a slight tone of apology, as false as a Golden Dragon made of iron.

"Mmmm...I understand...you will forgive me Ser, if my men distrust you so much...they will do anything to protect their Lord...if by any chance...I were to make 'inappropriate' gestures...that...just by any chance...could be considered as 'threat to their Lord's safety'...I fear the laws of the North are clear on that. Of course Ser, I only say this because I sense you are not from these lands.

As protector of these lands, it is my job to remind all strangers from who knows where of 'the customs of the North'." Roose said in a subtle tone of menace, thrown to test the waters and test the man in front of him.

"I'm afraid I do not understand, my Lord. Why should I be troubled by the 'hypothetical' actions of your loyal men?" Ramas asked in a confused tone.

"Well...Ser, there are seven experienced soldiers in this room and you...are alone and unarmed." Roose.

"I'm afraid I still don't understand, my Lord...I see seven weapons here at my fingertips, a sharp pen that I could use, 'only if hypothetically' the man behind me were to use his knife that he clutches with a stiff, cold hand. I can see a man on your left resting his weight on your right leg. Two men who do not have enough room to draw their long blades in this narrow room. And one man too caught up in his killer instincts to be clear on the proper way to react.....we think that '7' should be replaced with a lean and mean '2', my Lord." Explained Ramas as if he was trying to explain the obvious.

All the men stiffened at those words, they were ready to act at the first sign of their Lord. Roose Bolton, remained calm and cool, he showed a slight amused smirk.

"Well Ser Ramas...I'd say let's stop wasting time with speculation. When is the tournament?" Roose.

"I apologise for not telling you sooner, my lord. The tournament will be held in two moons. You are of course free to bring anyone you wish with you. My lord I also came here to offer you a possible business partnership with the Tallhart family." Ramas.

"I hear you, Ser Ramas...What partnership does your House seek with mine?" Roose.

"Here, my Lord. You own many mines of iron and cast iron. House Tallhart, would need those ores. If you are willing to give us some of them, House Tallhart will gladly pay a price 50% higher than its market value. I've already brought 2,000 G.D. with me... we were hoping you could deliver its mineral value to us at the end of those two moons. Of course, we will gladly purchase all the iron and cast iron you propose." Ramas.

".....House Bolton, will be more than happy to meet the needs of House Tallhart....afterhall have already done so much for the North and the Bolton lands that we cannot refuse such a request." Roose.

"Thank you very much, my lord. On behalf of myself and the House I represent. Also my lord..." Ramas took a moment.

"Yes? Is there anything else my House can do for you, Ser?" Roose.

"Indeed there is, my Lord. A rumor has reached us in our lands...it is rumored that House Bolton harbors an expert healer skilled in exotic cures...my lord Lord Helman would like, when you have arrived in Torrhen's Square of course...to request an interview with you in private for a possible business partnership with you." Ramas.

Roose Bolton, gave, in an instant, immediately a different value to the instrument called 'Adoamros' in his possession...reasoning for a few seconds he replied:

"I do not see why it is a problem in the future to be able to discuss such a matter with your Lord, Ser."

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